For more than two decades, MACCS International’s software has served as a vital link between distribution and exhibition outside North America. Now part of the Vista Group, MACCS continues to expand around the world. BoxOffice spoke with Jesse Chow, senior vice president and general manager of MACCS International in North America about the company’s current and future projects.
MACCS has been able to establish a great presence in the European market over the years. Would you say your European presence serves as a sort of blueprint for your international strategy?
It’s where we started 20 years ago, and our services are able to automate and connect data flow between distributors and exhibitors in the region-release schedule information, box office data, attendance, and industry norms and local laws from each territory. We sit in the middle of it, where everyone needs to look at the same set of data in order to effectively run their businesses and communicate back and forth on a weekly basis from bookings to operations and shipping. It won’t necessarily work in every single territory; we’re not saying it’s a one-size-fits-all solution, but on a case-by-case basis where you have the right competitive environment and the right statutory structure that allows distributors and exhibitors to work together, we’re happy to look at that and see what kinds of benefits we can roll out. It gets to the whole Vista Group story and their interest in investing in MACCS; they own 50.1 percent of us. We’re now able to connect our customers’ systems and data together in a manner that suits everyone involved and drives the business forward. There’s a lot of opportunity for exhibition and distribution to work together, and our experience in Europe is a model of that.
Your track record in Europe has opened doors in Asia and Latin America as well.
We have been very fortunate to have big customers like Warner Bros., Paramount, and Entertainment One that have exposure in different regions and territories around the world. They effectively establish standards, best practices, and efficiencies in the way they do business in the regions they’re present in. Through them we were able to realize that our software does well anywhere you put it; we’re in 38 territories right now, and we certainly think there’s space for more growth. We look at every place on a case-by-case basis as to what really makes sense for the potential customers in the region and our company. At the end of the day, you’re in the business of film licenses and rights, establishing contracts with exhibition, shipping and sending out invoices for film rentals; that whole process has now been standardized since the studios’ distribution network was expanded internationally. To have software built from the ground up like MACCS’s, from financials and accounting, to go and cover the flexibilities around planning and booking, we feel that model has proven to work time and time again regardless of the region.
Has that flexibility made it easier to tackle emerging markets? I understand you’ve just introduced MACCS to African distributors.
We just signed two new customers in the region over the past year, and they are both quite different from each other. You’re talking about a land mass that is larger than any other in the world, hundreds of millions of people across the continent. One of our recent customers is M-Net, one of the largest pay-TV companies in South Africa that also have satellite distribution and terrestrial broadcast and have developed a theatrical distribution business as well. We also signed with Crimson Multimedia, based out of Kenya, and they are the predominant distribution company in East and West Africa-you have incredible opportunity for growth out there. We’re present in countries there that predominantly speak English and have Western values, and most of the film that is distributed in those territories is Hollywood and Bollywood content. They project continued screen growth in the region-it’s healthy, but it’s by no means China. With clients like ours in the region who are actively investing in new screens in the region, combined with software like ours, we are trying to build part of the infrastructure to grow the region.